Over the years I’ve worked with a large number of men who struggle in their marriages/relationships, despite their desire to be more loving and emotionally available spouses/partners. These struggles were partly due to a lack of information about the different factors that go into making up a successful, long-term relationship. What follows is a brief synopsis of why these men struggled to meet their partner’s needs.
Relationship Help For Men: 3 Hurdles Men Must Overcome
1) Minimizing the Significance of Sharing
There are many different types of sharing that go along with being in a committed relationship. And many of the men I work with in therapy often feel stymied when their spouses/partners complain that “You don’t talk to me anymore!” Often, what is being asked for isn’t a profound type of existential sharing, but rather a simple sharing of the daily details (“What happened during your day?”).
When guys perceive this type of sharing as trivial or meaningless, they are missing out on a simple yet powerful way to connect to their partner.
2) Failing to Understand the Centrality of Emotional Safety
At a workshop for men and intimacy, I asked the participants, “What do you do in order to make your partner feel emotionally safe with you?” This question seemed to perplex some of the guys, and what became apparent is that for some men, safety is only associated with physical safety—in other words, some of these men didn’t have the perspective that safety exists on an emotional plane in intimate relationships.
Once emotional safety is compromised, emotional intimacy and the openness of sharing the deepest parts of yourself are lost. Asking your partner what makes her/him feel emotionally safe is a first step in making this important issue a central part of your marriage/relationship.
3) Seeing Sex As A Purely Erotic Act
Sexual/physical intimacy can have different layers of meaning for couples, and part of effective couples communication involves understanding and expressing your sexual needs with one another. Understanding that sex may not always be viewed solely as an erotic (purely sexualized) experience for your partner is important information for men to have, especially when men are able to initiate sex without being mindful and sensitive to the emotional context that may be negatively impacting their partner’s sexual desire.
For a more in-depth exploration of the different meanings of sexual intimacy in long-term relationships, see my post, Passionate Sex: Creating A Sexual Playground Together.
By becoming more mindful of the above issues, men can gain the relationship tools needed for creating and maintaining an enriching experience with their partner. Healthy marriages/relationships are co-created by both partners, and discussing this information and making it fit the uniqueness of your relationship is the challenge for all of us trying to navigate the complexities and challenges that come with long-term, committed relationships.
Until next time,
Dr. Rich Nicastro